Weeks ago, Frank Ocean grabbed everyone’s attention with a personal blog detailing his first love. He followed the high-profile letter with the release of his debut album, channel ORANGE. The album was met with rave reviews and commercial success, despite Frank’s minimal promotion for it.
Though delivering a personal and story-telling opus, the world is more fascinated by his sexuality. He finally opens up about coming out, singing about men and more.
On people saying he’s ‘courageous’ for coming out to such a homophobic industry. “I don’t know,” he demurs, looking down. “A lot of people have said that since that news came out. I suppose a percentage of that act was because of altruism; because I was thinking of how I wished at 13 or 14 there was somebody I looked up to who would have said something like that, who would have been transparent in that way. But there’s another side of it that’s just about my own sanity and my ability to feel like I’m living a life where I’m not just successful on paper, but sure that I’m happy when I wake up in the morning, and not with this freakin’ boulder on my chest.”
On penning the letter in December 2011 because of potential speculation in the future. “I knew that I was writing in a way that people would ask questions,” he explains. “I knew that my star was rising, and I knew that if I waited I would always have somebody that I respected be able to encourage me to wait longer, to not say it till who knows when.” He’s not one for playing the game, clearly. “It was important for me to know that when I go out on the road and I do these things, that I’m looking at people who are applauding because of an appreciation for me,” he says. “I don’t have many secrets, so if you know that, and you’re still applauding … it may be some sort of sick validation but it was important to me. When I heard people talking about certain, you know, ‘pronouns’ in the writing of the record, I just wanted to – like I said on the post – offer some clarity; clarify, before the fire got too wild and the conversation became too unfocused and murky.”
On refusing to use ambiguous pronouns. “When you write a song like Forrest Gump, the subject can’t be androgynous. It requires an unnecessary amount of effort. I don’t fear anybody … ” He laughs, making eye contact at last, his face lighting up, ” … at all. So, to answer your question, yes, I could have easily changed the words. But for what? I just feel like it’s just another time now. I have no interest in contributing to that, especially with my art. It’s the one thing that I know will outlive me and outlive my feelings. It will outlive my depressive seasons.”
On his music being so dark. “I honestly couldn’t tell you,” he finally says, after a long silence. “I would say, those were the colours I had to work with on those days.” Is it drawn from experience? “Absolutely. I mean, ‘experience’ is an interesting word. I just bear witness. For a song like Crack Rock, my grandfather, who had struggled to be a father for my mum and my uncle … his second chance at fatherhood was me. In his early-20s, he had a host of problems with addiction and substance abuse. When I knew him, he was a mentor for the NA and the AA groups. I used to go to the meetings and hear these stories from the addicts – heroin and crack and alcohol. So stories like that influence a song like that.”